A newsletter dropped in to my inbox with the title, “The holidays are coming: Put your oxygen mask on first.” It was a reference to the ubiquitous comment that airline travelers hear at the beginning of every flight: In case of emergency, air masks will drop. Put on your own mask before trying to help any one seated near you.

Good advice while flying – but even better as we think about the holidays and how often we neglect our own health and needs while we go rushing around to meet everyone else’s expectations.

When I asked, and people settled down and listened to their own hearts and minds, they became clear very quickly.

The admonition of tending to your own oxygen first is more pertinent at the holidays – and much more pertinent for those who live with chronic illness.

This is a high pressure, and emotionally laden time.

A client and I were talking last week about all the expectations she has for herself. Presents to buy and wrap and send, cards to get out, food to prepare, decorating – her list went on and on, and she looked more and more unhappy. “I don’t want to do any of it,” she confessed. “It isn’t my holiday. I just want to sit and look at my birdfeeder and wait for it to be over.”

Another client was more harried than sad. “I can’t find time to exercise, or eat right,” he said. “Too many things to do. I’ll get back to it after Jan. 1”

January is a long time away – and our bodies and spirits will suffer if we ignore what we need and try to do what everyone else is doing.

What would it be like for you to “put your own oxygen on first”?

What do you need to do – or to give up doing?

What are you craving for yourself in this time of celebrations and family and expectations?

I asked several people to get their ideas.

“I’d like some quiet time with music of the season in the early morning.”

“I want to keep up my exercise – and maybe even do a little more – because when I miss, the pain gets so much worse.”

“I’m going to say no to that party and avoid the drink and rich food. I need my sleep more than I need to socialize.”

“To take care of my needs first, I am going to have small gathering with people I love and enjoy their company, rather than rush around.”

When I asked, and people settled down and listened to their own hearts and minds, they became clear very quickly.

I suspect you will find the same is true for you.

You know what you need, what you’re missing, how you can take care of yourself so you can be there for what matters.

Imagine what your “oxygen mask” is for the holidays – what will sustain your energy and keep your spirits high.

Then make sure you do it!